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Nikon D2X
© 2006 KenRockwell.com

I'd get mine here or here

Nikon D2X

I'd get mine here or here

September 2013: they sell for $600 today. THey were $5,500 new.

March 2008: The D2X has been superceded by the far superior D3 and D300. This review is now an historical artifact, mostly written back in 2005. 2005 is ancient history in digital camera years.

This page here compares the Nikon D2X to a 6 x 7 cm Mamiya 7. Even the compact medium format camera easily trounces the digital for huge enlargements.

INTRODUCTION

The D2X was replaced by the similar D2Xs in June, 2006. Read this page for particulars about both cameras, and my D2Xs page for what's new. Don't buy a new D2X unless you get a deal, and that doesn't mean mailing a money order to a foreign country.

The D2X is for full time professional photographers who need a solid, responsive camera to beat on all day and night. You pay a severe premium in price and weight if all you want are more megapixels than a D70. Personally I prefer the D200 because it does almost the same thing and weighs a lot less. The D200 only costs one-third the price and is a year or two newer, too.

What makes the D2X special is its fantastic high speed, instant response, brutally fast autofocus, superb usability and construction so solid you can use it for self-defense. Megapixels alone isn't that big a deal; in fact, I've seen great 13 x 19" prints made from the 4MP D2H and you can get more pixels than that with the 6MP D70.

Loads of scams operate online for the D2X. If anyone is offering it for anything less than $4,450 as of January 2006 I'd avoid them. Check out any place at reselleratings.com first. I'd buy from Amazon and Adorama no problem. I've seen a zillion scams offering it at $3,999 or less. Buyer beware! There are so many scams out there, usually offering a D2X for around $2,599, that I had to pull the text ads off of this page.

To appreciate the D2X you need to hold it and use it. If you've only used amateur cameras like the D100, F100, D70, N80 and then you're in for a huge surprise. The responsiveness of the D2X never makes it to spec sheets or technical websites loaded with photos of test charts. For instance, Nikon has added a new programmable button you can use to get faster access to any function you choose, for instance, instant flash-on or flash-off control without ever having to remove your eyes from the finder. These are the little things critical to professional use, not just the resolution. These are the difference between getting the money shot and missing it while the AF system hunts around.

The D2X is Nikon's, if not the world's, flagship digital SLR of 2005. It has 12MP at up to 5 FPS and can run at 8FPS at 7MP, making it a great choice for just about everything. It has a huge 2.5" LCD screen and a fantastic long life, carefree battery system. The only reason not to get one is if you need very light weight; the D2x is a solid professional camera built to take and dish out a beating and has a price to match. The similar D2Hs offers similar frame rates with less resolution and higher ISOs in the same bulletproof body for a lower price.

It uses the industry standard DX sensor size. I have an article here why this is important.

SPECIFICATIONS

Standard 16 x 24mm DX sensor, not the old 35mm film size. Standard 1.5x crop factor from 35mm film. High speed crop mode uses only the center 12 x 18 mm section or a 2x crop factor.

5 FPS. Also a pleasantly bizarre 8 FPS mode by cropping the sensor with reduced resolution and reduced sensor size. Buffer 21 frames or 35 frames in lower resolution/higher speed mode. ( Only 15 frames for NEF; 26 frames NEF in crop mode.)

12 Megapixels or 4,288 x 2,848 pixels. Also 3,216 x 2,126 and 2,144 x 1,424 pixel settings. Higher speed cropped image mode crops the image down to 7 Megapixels or 3,216 x 2,136 pixels. Also 2,400 x 1,600 and 1,600 x 1,064 pixel sizes at this frame rate. No big deal, for $999 my D70 makes 3,008 pixel wide images which is close enough to 4,288. I have a whole page about why 12MP is pretty much the same as 6MP here.

CMOS sensor without electronic shutter limits sync speed to only 1/250. Read why this isn't as good as the D70 or older cameras here. Slowest speed is 30 seconds and bulb. Without flash the shutter can go to 1/8,000. I'm sure it supports the not particularly exciting FP sync mode to 1/8,000. I explain why I'm not excited about that mode here.

Size 6.2" wide, 5.9" tall and 3.4" deep. (158 x 150 x 86 mm)

Weighs about 2.4 pounds (38 oz or 1,070 g). This is almost twice the weight of the plastic D70's 21 oz.

RGB histogram is the first useful histogram in Nikon cameras. The D70 and D1/D1X/D1H had misleading green channel only histograms. This is a huge improvement.

ISO 100 to 800, half the speed of the D1, D1H, D2H cameras and half the speed of the D70. This is because the pixels are only half as big as the D70, so they only collect half as much light. Twice as many megapixels in the same size sensor gives half the ISO sensitivity for the same amount of noise. Today's sensors and amplifiers operate pretty close to the limits of physics described by Boltzmann's constant which means that pixel size, impedance and temperature define the ultimate noise level, so the only way to improve the speed and noise are to cool the sensor with liquid nitrogen (uncommon) or smudge over the noise with software (as done in bad camera designs) or use bigger sensors. The D2x also has noisy pushed modes of ISO 1,600 and 3,200 ISO called H1 and H2. Nikon also allows one to select or not select noise reduction at the highest settings, which is great.

Takes standard CF cards and microdrives.

Many data options: JPG, TIF, RAW and the option of three JPG sizes recorded along with RAW. Also an option for fixed file size JPGs, which makes me giggle since Nikon DSLRs have always been relatively fixed file size. My Canon and Sony cameras have files sizes that adjust automatically depending on image complexity while my D70 and D1H always recorded about the same file size, causing the image quality to vary with image complexity. Thus I'm unsure if this means that Nikon now has variable file size/constant quality in the other JPG modes. No big deal unless you're a math teacher. I always preferred the variable file size/constant quality modes of other brands of cameras over Nikon's constant file size/variable quality modes in their other cameras.

1,005 segment meter, I presume at least as good as the fantastic D70 which is the best meter I've ever used.

White balance gets much more flexible, a very welcome improvement that will be a huge help in getting great images. More settings, more ways to set them and FIVE manual presets which you can name with your own text. Excellent!

Huge 2.5" LCD screen, extremely helpful.

Voice memos with built in speaker and microphone. No movie mode, same as all other DSLRs.

11 AF zones, only 9 usable in the even more tightly cropped high-speed mode. These zones unfortunately are still arranged directly horizontally and vertically, so they are not as useful to me as if they were arranged diagonally. I prefer the arrangement of the AF sensors on the $1,500 Canon 20D. Few if any other cameras have these arranged as I'd like them. Also in cropped mode they are all towards the edges of the image area, not too useful. No big deal, I usually just use the center sensor anyway.

i-TTL flash and D-TTL flash. This means it works great with the latest SB-600 and SB-800 in the newest i-TTL mode, just like the D70. Unlike the D70 it also can work in the obsolete D-TTL mode with the old SB28DX, SB-50DX and SB-80DX flashes. I find i-TTL is so superior I'd just go buy a new SB-600 or SB-800 and dump any old SB-80DX. Only the SB-600 and SB-800 work in i-TTL as far as I know.

No built-in flash; you'll have to buy either an SB-600 and SB-800 since even an SB-80DX is too old to work with the better new i-TTL system. By comparison the D70 has a great built-in flash especially when used as a trigger for other remote flashes.

Wi-Fi optional, which lets you work without having to plug in the camera or remove the cards to read them in your computer. This can be very liberating for a studio.

PC Flash Sync terminal (lacking on D70 but not really needed)

Fantastic Li-Ion battery, far superior to obsolete Ni-MH used in D1/D1H/D1X cameras. Unfortunately it's still a huge battery pack and a huge charger, unlike the great tiny battery and charger for the D70 and D100, but that's the price you pay for the higher performance of the D2 series over the slower cameras.

Built-in intervelometer, and it's about time since this is just firmware that should be in every modern camera. (pun not intended but noted.)

Autorotates images just like the D70, a huge time saver over D1X.

Multiple exposure mode. So what; I would much rather a 1/500 sync that I'd actually use.

PERFORMANCE

It works fantastically. It feels like an effortless extension of your consciousness. Everything works fast and efficiently with no waiting.

When using the high speed crop mode there are crop marks illuminated in the finder.

The D2X has a slick new magic button one may program to do one's bidding which isn't mentioned in the promotional literature. For instance, this new button may be programmed to turn the flash off instantly to save time without having to press the button on the flash.

The D2X has a huge LCD screen and lots of zoom magnification to ensure everything is sharp. It's easy to navigate around it; better than the D70.

The real reason to buy a D2X is its instantaneous operation. The literature just can't convey that the AF is instantaneous with just about every lens. Just like the F5 and D1 it has big motors inside and makes no compromises. It slams around the focus on any AF lens, AFS or regular, much faster than a D70 of F100.

The battery works like a charm; Nikon uses modern Li-ion technology instead of the Ni-MH of the D1/X/H.

Everything happens immediately and there isn't anything that you need to do that you can't with this. Sure, it has 12MP, but for real photographers what's important is the ergonomics and the fine operational points you can't see on a test chart. If you can afford it both in dollars and size and weight it will make you very, very happy.

Bjørn has a great technical review here. For now I'm awaiting one for a longer evaluation than the little bit of stick time I've had so far.

Of course for pro photographers, the majority of whom are Mac users, I hear the Nikon brand software as usual still sucks. Personally I only shoot JPG and the only Nikon software I use is Nikon View 6.2.2, which I use only for initial downloading to take advantage of automatic rotation and image tagging. Others have pointed out that Capture works horribly if you shoot RAW, although much of the Nikon software for Mac has sucked bigtime for years. If this is important to you be careful and try it for yourself. It doesn't bother me since I and many digital professionals don't use camera maker brand software and have more invested in special software and plugins by folks who know how to do software properly like Adobe and iView and even Macromedia than the cost of a D2X. Then again to Nikon's credit they were demoing the WiFi remote capture operation of the D2X at PMA on Macs.

WHERE TO GET IT AND AVOIDING SCAMS

Read here about scams on the internet and how to buy. Be very, very suspicious if anyone's selling it for less then about $4,999. For instance, www.MivaStyle.com sure looks like a scam, since they don't take credit cards.

Now that the D2Xs is out it will be tough, since this old D2X will start selling for less even from legitimate dealers. Hint: if a dealer won't take your credit card, it's a SCAM.

SUMMARY

Of course I'd love to get one and I just might. I first need to get one for a more formal review. If you earn your living with your camera you'll want one of these. If you want a camera to take with you for fun, relaxation and vacation remember that this is a huge hulking pro camera. You will stand out everywhere you go, and you'll always know you have this thing around your neck.

Don't discount the D70 for it' twice better weight, twice higher ISO speeds, twice better sync speed and less than one-fifth price! If you'd rather read a chat room where people sit around and discuss this instead of making photos have a look here and here.

If you shoot sports you'll love and need the triple frame rate of the D2X compared to the D70. Also look at the D2H/D2Hs, which saves you a lot of money by trading less resolution for more ISO.

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